Finance conglomerates and privatization in Colombia in the 1990s

If you only read one book on Colombia in your lifetime, make sure that it is Global Capitalism, Democracy, and Civil-Military Relations in Colombia (2006) by William Aviles.  This book is absolutely soaked with both fundamental data and compelling narrative-based analysis around the evolution of Colombian political economy.  I’m currently sifting through it while writing an essay specifically on Colombia and US foreign policy, but am rather disappointed that I don’t have the time or energy to follow up on some of the micro-analysis that it puts forward.  I.e. this passage just now stuck out to me:

The Santodomingo group, the largest conglomerate at this time, had donated $3.7 million to Samper’s presidential campaign in 1994 (the largest contributor to Samper’s campaign).  The Sarmiento group donated almost $1 million to Samper’s campaign and was awarded with control over the Banco Popular when it was privatized during his administration.  Likewise, the Santodomingo group was awarded lucrative communication and media licenses, which allowed it to enjoy immense profits during the Samper years in the cellular phone market.  (Aviles 2006: 74)

I feel like the typical mainstream economic analysis around issues of privatization and free-markets tend to overlook these types of political networks and other complexities of political economy.  And on the flip-side, I feel like typical left-wing/Marxist/progressive critiques of privatization tend to skirt away from the kind of micro-analysis of how individual privatization schemes tend to play out.  The end result is that both sides tend to argue about the abstract benefits of having market-lead or state-lead development, that miss the finer points around how power determines development.


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